If one were to conduct a survey of the people who drive on the roads, one would find a series of things. One of them is that the people who operate what passes for public transport are semi-literate, have a short attention span and are very intolerant of other road users.
Another thing that the survey would uncover is the large number of people who acquired their driver’s licence through means other than the official way. The person with money got his and then recommended others. The result is that inexperienced drivers are on the roads and it is a wonder that some of them survive the initial road hassle to actually become experienced.
Another observation is that Guyana does not have the volume of road for the number of accidents that the country records. If one were to check one would find for the greater part the roads are all one long stretch leading to some waterway. Most of the accidents and road fatalities occur along these stretches.
The police have already concluded that speeding is responsible. What happens is that the inexperienced on the long stretches simply drive faster than they should. They also do not pay attention to the other road users. The solution rests with police patrols or with the police being stationed at specific locations along the road. Indeed, this would force the motorists to slow down and as everyone knows, less speed less likelihood of a major accident.
There was a time when the police presence on the road along the eastern corridor, was more intense that in any other part of the country. That was also the time when very few accidents occurred in West Berbice.
Georgetown is a different kettle of fish. For one, it has many roads and streets but the vast majority is so potholed that motorists avoid them. There are those with street lights. These two features cause many vehicles to crowd the roads where the drivers feel that there would be no hindrances.
Of course, when just about everyone tries to do the same thing then the congestion will occur. Place a few inexperienced drivers in this mix and one can understand why there are so many accidents in the city. People do not heed traffic signs and create even more accidents.
Perhaps, the solution rests with the court. The fines are ridiculously low so that people do not really feel as though they are penalized. Indeed, there are arguments against hiking the fines. Given the level of corruption in the country one’s view is that the police would simply become judge, jury and executioner. They are going to demand sums from drivers who commit infractions.
Some months ago, there was a group of policemen who pulled over a man and demanded $5,000 with the explanation that the fine in court would have been twice as much. They did not bargain for the man making a complaint to higher authorities. The money was returned but there was no further sanction.
This is only one case. We have grown accustomed to seeing people other than the traffic ranks setting up roadblocks and demanding money. And the hierarchy of the police knows of this trend and actually allows it to happen for a variety of reasons. They tell themselves that the policeman is poorly paid, that some of them actually benefit from the illegal proceeds and that in any case, the people from whom the bribe is demanded do not complain.
Once this casual approach to traffic matters continues more people are going to die on the roads. Of course the wider society can actually save lives. The Ministry of Home Affairs has set up a system that allows people to report when they pay a bribe. So far this has not been used as effectively as people should, although thousands of dollars have changed hands on the roads.
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